Here's a crazy thesis that nobody holds:
(1) If S knows that p, then S is permitted to assert that p.
There are boring counterexamples to (1). For instance, there are cases in which I am morally forbidden from asserting things that I know. This, of course, shows nothing interesting about the relationship between knowledge and assertion. So to capture the content of the interesting claim in the neighborhood, we move from (1) to something subtler and less crazy; maybe something like one of these:
(2) If S knows that p, then no epistemic shortcoming in S can explain why asserting that p would be inappropriate.
(3) If S knows that p, then S is in a strong enough epistemic position to assert that p.
(4) If S knows that p, then improving S's epistemic position won't put S in a position to assert p.
Maybe (2)-(4) are equivalent to one another; I'm not sure. They do a better job than (1) does at rendering certain kinds of cases of knowledge without assertability irrelevant. But they, too, are subject to conclusive refutation in a way orthogonal to the knowledge norm of assertion. My argument against (1) concerned cases in which I'm morally prohibited from asserting something, even though I know it -- maybe telling the Nazis where the Jews are hiding or something like that. But there are also cases in which I'm morally prohibited from asserting something, even though I know it, where a failure in my epistemic position plays a role in explaining the prohibition. There are boring cases like this. For instance, suppose that I've made a promise to assert that p only if I know that q. (Maybe promising by itself is insufficient for the relevant duties; stipulate that we're talking about a promise that carries serious moral weight.) Now suppose I know p, but don't know q. It's impermissible to assert that p, even though I know p -- and even though a deficiency in my epistemic position plays a role in explaining why p is unassertable. These cases, too, show that (2)-(4) don't get to the heart of the matter.
And it won't help to relativize the claims about strength of position to p, either. That is, these attempts at the knowledge norm face the same problem:
(5) If S knows that p, then S is in a strong enough epistemic position with respect to p to assert that p.
(6) If S knows that p, then improving S's epistemic position with respect to p won't put S in a position to assert p.
(7) If S knows that p, then p is, for S, warranted enough to justify S in asserting that p.
For take the special case of the sort of example given above where q is a proposition about S's epistemic position with respect to p. For instance, suppose I've promised not to assert p unless this condition is met: I know that I know that I'm absolutely certain that p. Suppose also that I know p, but don't know that I know that I'm absolutely certain that p. Under the circumstances, p is unassertable, because my epistemic position with respect to p isn't strong enough. But that doesn't show us anything interesting about the knowledge norm of assertion, if the latter is meant to be understood as showing something interesting distinctively about assertion.
What the knowledge norm of assertion suggests is that there's a special way that assertions can fail qua assertions. It says that if S knows p, then an assertion that p doesn't fail in this particular way. It doesn't provide any sufficient conditions for not failing in some other way, even when you build in all of these conditions about S's epistemic position.
Therefore, none of (1)-(7) are closely related to:
(Norm) Knowledge is the constitutive norm of assertion.
This post has gone on long enough for now, but I'll close by just asserting that many attempts to argue against the knowledge norm of assertion really look like arguments against some or all of (1)-(7); this is a mistake. I've argued that (1)-(7) are definitely false, for boring reasons that don't have anything to do with assertion in particular. If all you have is a case along with intuitions about what is known and what is unassertable, and why it's unassertable or under what circumstances that unassertability would be rectified, then you don't have anything strong enough to speak directly to (Norm). To evaluate (Norm) via the method of cases, you'd need to have intuitions about whether the assertion suffers from a particular kind of failure qua assertion. These, I think, we rarely have at any kind of pretheoretic level.
My first reaction to your objection to (1) would be that it seems to be based on equivocation. What one means by maintaining (1) is that, if S knows that p, then S is epistemically permitted to assert that p. Isn't it?
And it seems to me that insofar as we are able to draw the distinction between what is epistemically and what is, say, morally or legally permissible, we also have intuittions about what is epistemically (as opposed to, say morally or legally) permissible. Isn't it?
I'm not sure where we disagree. I agree that the sorts of failures that are relevant for the knowledge norm of assertion are distinctively epistemic ones. That's a way of putting my objection to (1) -- it doesn't say anything about what kind of failure is being excluded. I'm not sure what equivocation you think I'm committing; maybe there's a possible reading of (1) where 'permitted' means 'epistemically permitted', but if there is, I think I was univocally using another one.
As for your second point, about having richer intuitions, maybe your intuitions are more sophisticated than mine, but I'm nervous about relying on intuitive judgments of whether assertions are defective in a distinctively epistemic way, or are instead defective in a non-epistemic way (that may derive from an epistemic shortcoming). The epistemic norms -- unlike, say, moral and legal ones -- seem most directly to govern belief. So we need to do some serious theorizing, I think, before we can be very clear just how to use them to evaluate things like assertions.
Sorry, I guess that was just too quick. I wasn't really trying to make two points. What I was trying to say is simply that the kind of instinctive reaction one has to the objection to (1) seems to show that we have the fine-grained intuitions that you seem to be denying we have. Don't you think so? (Well I guess you don't but I'd like to hear more about why)
(BTW, glad to hear you and Carrie will be joining the Canadian philosophical community!)
I should have added that I don't think that any of your counterexamples against (2)-(7) work against the version of (1) I was suggesting and so I guess I can't really see what you have in mind when you talk of assertions that are defective in a non-epistemic way (that may derive from an epistemic shortcoming).ReplyDelete
Gabriele, I think we mostly agree.ReplyDelete
The counterexamples I proposed to (2)-(7) are all cases of assertions that are defective in a non-epistemic way which nevertheless derive from an epistemic shortcoming. I agree with you that they're not counterexamples to a thesis relating assertion to a distinctive kind of epistemic failure. You can take my post as a reminder of the distinction -- one which you seem to have firmly in hand -- between the interesting forms of the knowledge norm and statements of principles like (2)-(7).
Maybe it'd help to see what's motivating me. I assert in the post (but don't give examples) that some arguments against the knowledge norm are really only effective against principles like (2)-(7); this, then, would be a mistake. The main point of the post is that you can't show anything interesting about the norms of assertion by pointing to cases in which there's knowledge, but intuitively the assertion would be a bad one. Indeed, it's not even enough to add that the badness derives from an epistemic limitation. You need it to be bad in a certain special kind of way.
[...] Comments « Assertability and Norms of Assertion [...]ReplyDelete
I (meta)agree--we do mostly agree :-). What we disagree about is mainly the last sentence in your post (I think we have those intuitions pretheoretically it's just that it takes a bit of reflection to articulate them) and also the sentence before that one (I think the relevant kind of failure is epistemic and none of the cases you describe is an epistemic failure despite the fact that epistemic notions enter the picture).ReplyDelete
On the first point, I guess it just depends how much reflection you can need before you stop being relevantly 'pretheoretic'. I don't really mind where that particular line is drawn.ReplyDelete
On the second point, I don't see how what you say is in tension with what I said. I said: "To evaluate (Norm) via the method of cases, you’d need to have intuitions about whether the assertion suffers from a particular kind of failure qua assertion." I'm happy to qualify, if it helps, that the particular kind of failure I had in mind is an epistemic one.
I guess it just depends how much reflection you can need before you stop being relevantly ‘pretheoretic’. I don’t really mind where that particular line is drawn.ReplyDelete
I don't want to hijack the thread more than I have already done but I would say that when the reflection is only needed to articulate the intuition (as opposed to generate it), the intuition is still pretheoretical but then sometimes I wonder if many of our "pretheoretical" intuitions as philosophers are a product of our training (many things that seem intuitive to me don't seem to be at all intuitive to my UG students).
I’m happy to qualify, if it helps, that the particular kind of failure I had in mind is an epistemic one.
I thought you were suggesting it is a specific kind of epistemic failure, but I must have misunderstood you.
No, Gabriele, you were right to think I was suggesting there's a specific kind of epistemic failure at work here. I think that any time you aren't in a good enough epistemic position to do something you want to do, there's some kind of epistemic failure at work -- just not the particular one I'm interested in. So if I'm not certain that p, and would need to be certain that p in order appropriately to do X, the reason I can't do X is that I'm suffering from one kind of epistemic failure. But, as you agree, it's not the kind that's of interest to questions about knowledge norms.ReplyDelete